What’s the worst gig you’ve ever done?
However well you prepare for a show or event, things can sometimes go wrong.
This will mostly be caused by the unpredictable nature of other people, (your audience), though you could just slip up.
I count myself lucky that I haven’t completely died on stage, but I’ve had some moments…
Here are some of the worst (but also best) moments I can remember having at gigs and shows:
All have been salvageable, had positive moments, and given me a great anecdote, so I don’t think I’d label any as ‘worst gig ever’…
…but just for fun, let’s count down to what would likely be number 1…
(like they do on the radio, and in corny late-night TV shows).
5. An evening beer festival –
This was good training, but it was HARD work.
It was challenging to make myself seem more important than unlimited steins of beer, very attractive stage dancers dressed to look like traditional (yet uncommonly sexy) Dutch maids, and extremely loud music.
It started successfully, but the last half-an-hour involved me desperately seeking out sober groups of businessmen.
4. Possibly the best heckle I ever received –
was a woman leaving her seat mid-show and drunkenly wandering up to the bar to look at flyers for other shows!
To be fair, she’d arrived late so didn’t have the best seat in the house… but at this point during the fringe (which can leave you feeling absolutely knackered), I couldn’t help but laugh.
It made me laugh to the point I had to momentarily stop the show and explain to the audience what was happening, and then she just wandered out…
…never to be seen again.
It was magical.
3. This one is vulnerable, so be nice – this time, it was me.
I had just returned from a month at the Edinburgh Fringe…
I should have been at my most confident, and with stage magic I was, but I hadn’t performed close-up in a while.
I probably shouldn’t have assumed that muscle memory would work without any further effort. It does normally, but maybe the slight apprehension for my first close-up gig in a month prevented this.
It was lucky, however, that it happened in a pub I regularly performed in.
I messed up my opening trick to my opening group – it’s not the best thing to mess up, as the group will understandably assume you’re crap at your job.
I could normally redeem myself at this point by laughing it off, moving on, and making it feel like the mistake was intended as a playful joke…
…but they weren’t a nice group, and it very much became a ‘me and them’ situation.
The group weren’t up for laughing with me, just at me – not every group feels the need to act in a polite way, and some won’t conform to social etiquette in the same way they would with a ‘normal’ person.
However, I have to admit, I panicked a little, and went into another trick only to mess that one up as well!
I finished on an impressive third effect just to redeem myself, but overall the set had gone done like a sneeze in 2020, and I still remember the way one member of the group laughed at me.
Needless to say, it took a lot of confidence to continue and do the rest of the 3 hour gig.
2. The magically collapsing chair.
Wow – this one was mental.
The worst bit? – I’d just given the person sitting on the chair a prop to hold.
My character is dark, and a little sinister at times, so a large proportion of the audience genuinely believed I had made the chair break on purpose.
(It was completely unplanned, I promise.)
I had given the audience member a box and was heading dramatically into the last story of the show, when they suddenly crashed through the chair, breaking a pint glass underneath them.
We checked that they were ok, (luckily, they were), cleared most of the glass, got them a new chair, and after regaining most of the stunned and giggly audience, managed to carry on.
To be honest, finishing the show on the most serious routine felt pointless, but I had already started that section, and the audience member looked so embarrassed that I didn’t want to stop the show early on their behalf!
1. The Christmas cracker show
I didn’t use Christmas crackers, the audience members at the back did throughout the show.
They also argued about who was buying the next round and wandered through the audience asking each other where the loos were.
Most audiences buy tickets to a magic show to watch magic – revelatory statement I know.
However, when the manager of a company decides to buy their whole office tickets to see a magic show, when it’s their main opportunity to get p**sed and gossip with one another that year, magic isn’t always their priority.
The large majority of the time, Christmas parties can be a delight to perform to – the atmosphere is excitable, everyone is up for a good time, and it feels like a celebration of the year’s achievements, but this one was just one of those exceptions.
I battled through the show with them, getting smatters of laughter and occasional gasps in the right places, but the show ended with me wondering whether this particularly drunk audience may have reacted better to cheaper gags and jokes.
You have to keep a positive outcome when things don’t work to plan.
After all, when something unexpected happens, it is now extremely unlikely to happen again –
The ‘mishap’ has changed from something that is unpredictable and able to blindside you at any moment, to something that you know how to deal with if repeated.
Maybe you’re shouting “Ava, that’s ridiculous, prevention is always better than cure” at your screen, I don’t know…
I wouldn’t get very far in the performance industry without being at least somewhat optimistic, and, however magical you are, you just can’t prepare for everything…
…unless you’re magical enough to see into the future that is - then you could prepare for anything.
I’m not sure how fun that would be though…
(I definitely won by the way...)